Bordering on insanity

Kevin Lewis

November 04, 2018

Voluntary arousing negative experiences (VANE): Why we like to be scared
Margee Kerr, Greg Siegle & Jahala Orsini
Emotion, forthcoming


This study examined survey data and neural reactivity associated with voluntarily engaging in high arousal negative experiences (VANE). Here we suggest how otherwise negative stimuli might be experienced as positive in the context of voluntary engagement. Participants were recruited from customers who had already purchased tickets to attend an “extreme” haunted attraction. Survey data measuring self-report affect, expectations, and experience was collected from 262 adults (139 women and 123 men; age M = 27.5 years, SD = 9.3 years) before and after their experience. Changes in electroencephalographic (EEG) indices of reactivity to cognitive and emotional tasks were further assessed from a subsample of 100 participants. Results suggested that participants’ reported affect improved, particularly for those that reported feeling tired, bored, or stressed prior to the experience. Among those whose moods improved, neural reactivity decreased in response to multiple tasks. Together, these data suggest that VANE reduces neural reactivity following stress. This result could explain post-VANE euphoria and may be adaptive in that it could help individuals to cope with subsequent stressors. To the extent that this phenomenon replicates in clinical situations, it could inform clinical interventions by using VANE principles to reduce neural reactivity to subsequent stressors.

The effects of Facebook on mood in emerging adults
Erica Yuen et al.
Psychology of Popular Media Culture, forthcoming


Social media usage is on the rise, with the majority of American adults using Facebook. The present study examined how Facebook activity affects mood in a subset of emerging adults, specifically undergraduates attending a private 4-year university. Participants (N = 312) were randomly assigned to one of the following 20-min activities: browse the Internet, passively browse others’ Facebook profiles, actively communicate with others on Facebook via messages/posts, or update their own personal profile on Facebook. Participants also completed questionnaires assessing mood, feelings of envy, and perceived meaningfulness of their time online. The results demonstrated that using Facebook led to significantly worsened mood compared with browsing the Internet, especially when participants passively browsed Facebook. Furthermore, perceptions of meaningfulness, but not feelings of envy, mediated the relationship between online activity and mood. Overall, these findings add to the mounting evidence that social media use may, at times, adversely affect psychological well-being.

Gender, genes, and the stress-buffering benefits of “home”: Evidence from two national U.S. studies
Carrie Morrisona, Michael Poulin & Alison Holman
Journal of Environmental Psychology, forthcoming


People often perceive that their homes provide refuge from stress, but some homes may provide more stress-buffering resources than others. In particular, single-family homes may provide greater resources, such as status or defensible territory, compared to multi-family homes. Given historical links among gender, home-based status, and territory defense, these benefits may affect men more than women. Data from two national, longitudinal surveys of U.S. adults (Ns = 1717 & 6393) indicated that living in single-family versus multi-family structures buffered the association between stressful events and distress among men, but not women. This pattern was not explained by home ownership, income, financial assets, education, or marital status. Also, in Study 1, the stress-buffering role of home type existed specifically among men most sensitive to the territory-linked neurohormone vasopressin. Home type may be an important factor in coping with stress, particularly among men, and especially for men who are more vasopressin sensitive.

Valuing excitement makes people look forward to old age less and dread it more
Jeanne Tsai et al.
Psychology and Aging, forthcoming


Previous research has shown that American culture places a premium on excitement, enthusiasm, and other high-arousal positive states (HAP) compared with various East Asian cultures. In two studies, we tested the prediction that valuing HAP would be associated with less positive personal views of old age (i.e., fewer things people looked forward to and more things they dreaded about old age) in samples of European American, Chinese American, and Hong Kong Chinese younger, middle-aged, and older adults. In Study 1 (N = 849), participants rated how much they ideally wanted to feel HAP during a typical week and described their personal views of old age. As predicted, European American middle and older adults valued HAP more than did their Chinese American and Hong Kong Chinese peers, and these differences in ideal HAP were related to less positive personal views of old age. In Study 2 (N = 164), we experimentally manipulated how much individuals valued HAP and then assessed their personal views of old age: Across cultures, participants in the “value HAP” condition had less positive personal views of old age than did those in the control condition. These effects did not emerge for societal views of old age (i.e., what people associated with “someone” old vs. young). Together, these findings suggest that people’s personal views of their own old age are due, in part, to how much excitement they ideally want to feel.

Effect of Prefrontal Cortex Stimulation on Regulation of Amygdala Response to Threat in Individuals With Trait Anxiety: A Randomized Clinical Trial
Maria Ironside et al.
JAMA Psychiatry, forthcoming

Design, Setting, and Participants: This community-based randomized clinical trial used a double-blind, within-participants design (2 imaging sessions per participant). Eighteen women with high trait anxiety (age range, 18-42 years) who scored greater than 45 on the trait measure of State-Trait Anxiety Inventory were randomized to receive active or sham tDCS of the DLPFC during the first session and the other intervention during the next session. Each intervention was followed immediately by a functional imaging scan during which participants performed an attentional task requiring them to ignore threatening face distractors. Data were collected from May 7 to October 6, 2015.

Results: Data from 16 female participants (mean age, 23 years; range, 18-42 years), with 8 in each group, were analyzed. Compared with sham stimulation, active DLPFC stimulation significantly reduced bilateral amygdala threat reactivity (z = 3.30, P = .04) and simultaneously increased activity in cortical regions associated with attentional control (z = 3.28, P < .001). In confirmatory behavioral analyses, there was a mean improvement in task accuracy of 12.2% (95% CI, 0.30%-24.0%; mean [SD] difference in number of correct answers, 2.2 [4.5]; t15 = 1.94, P = .04) after active DLPFC stimulation.

Lasting connectivity increase and anxiety reduction via transcranial alternating current stimulation
Kevin Clancy et al.
Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, forthcoming


Growing evidence of transcranial alternating current stimulation (tACS) modulating intrinsic neural oscillations has spawned interest in applying tACS to treat psychiatric disorders associated with aberrant neural oscillations. The alpha rhythmic activity is known to dominate neural oscillations at the awake restful state, while attenuated resting-state alpha activity has been implicated in anxious mood. Administering repeated alpha-frequency tACS (at individual peak alpha frequency; 8–12 Hz) over 4 consecutive days (in the experiment group, sham stimulation in the control group), we demonstrated immediate and lasting (> 24 hours) increases in resting-state posterior -> frontal connectivity in the alpha frequency, quantified by Granger causality. Critically, this connectivity enhancement was accompanied by sustained reductions in both anxious arousal and negative perception of sensory stimuli. Resting-state alpha power also increased, albeit only transiently, reversing to the baseline level within 24 hours after tACS. Therefore, the lasting enhancement of long-range alpha connectivity due to α-tACS differs from local alpha activity that is nonetheless conserved, highlighting the adaptability of alpha oscillatory networks. In light of increasing recognition of large-scale network dysfunctions as a transdiagnostic pathophysiology of psychiatric disorders this enduring connectivity plasticity, along with the behavioral improvements, paves the way for tACS applications in clinical interventions of psychiatric “oscillopathies.”

Restricting future time perspective reduces failure to act after a missed opportunity
JoNell Strough, Andrew Parker & Wändi Bruine de Bruin
Psychology and Aging, forthcoming


Inaction inertia occurs when missing an attractive opportunity (vs. not having been offered it) decreases the likelihood of acting on another similar opportunity. We experimentally manipulated future time perspective to reduce inaction inertia. Middle-aged and older adults from the Health and Retirement Study were randomly assigned to imagining restricted or expansive time left to live, or to no instructions. Across age, imagining a restricted future (vs. the other two instructions) reduced inaction inertia and future time perspective. Imagining living longer increased future time perspective among relatively younger participants. Consequences of restricted time perspective for decisions and life regrets are discussed.

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